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Create Accessible Documents

  • Course Design
  • Accessibility

Last modified: December 1, 2023

Accessibility can be a complex topic that always seems to be changing, but this page contains the main considerations for creating a document that is accessible.

Accessibility Checklist

No instructor purposely excludes students from knowledge by creating documents or resources that are inaccessible, but because accessibility is a target that changes as quickly as the technology available to us, it can be difficult to keep up with the latest recommendations. However, we, as an institution, strive towards equal and fair access for all of our students. To that end, this page will serve as a checklist to help instructors remove barriers from their documents and resources.


A quick tip for reformatting old documents...

When working on a document's accessibility, it's sometimes best to start with a fresh document so that you don't have original formatting that's causing a problem. If you want the information in the document but need to re-format the information, try copying the information into a Wordpad document to remove formatting. Then copy that unformatted text from the Wordpad and paste it into a brand new document. Now you can reformat without any leftover quirks from previous formatting.

Document Structure

Heading styles

  • Use the built-in heading styles to create a reading structure. 
    • You can modify styles to suit your preferences and needs
    • Don't skip heading levels (ex. don't move from a heading 1 straight to a heading 3 because you don't like the heading 2 font)

Blank space

  • Don't hit "Enter" to create extra space or move down the page.
    • Use the line spacing options or heading styles to add extra space between lines, paragraphs, and sections
    • Use the "Page Break" options to move to the next page without unnecessary formatting


  • Don't use tables to manage document layout or to create columns
  • Tabs can be used, but don't use more than once. Adjust tab to be the length you want
  • Avoid text boxes as they can create illogical reading order
  • Keep images "inline" with text (don't use text wrapping)

Readability & Legibility


  • Consider readability when selecting fonts
    • at least 12-point in size
    • sans serif fonts are recommended
  • Italicized text can be difficult to read; use bold for emphasis
  • Underlining is typically associated with links so avoid it for emphasis; use bold instead


  • Choose colors with adequate contrast
  • Never use color alone for emphasis

If you aren't sure about the colors you've chosen, you can use WebAIM's contrast checker tool.

Text Structure

  • Full justification adds inconsistent spacing between words; left-aligned is recommended
  • Divide large blocks of text in to smaller more manageable sections


  • Add alt-text for any non-text objects
  • Do not include the words "image of", "picture of", etc. since this is assumed by the fact that the screen reader is reading it as alt-text
  • Describe the content or meaning of the image rather than the image itself; what is the purpose of the image; what is it meant to convey
  • If the image contains relevant text, include the text in the alt text
  • Check the box for decorative if the image is not meant to convey or enhance meaning


  • Use numbered lists when order matters
  • Use bulleted lists when order is irrelevant
  • Use built-in menu options to create lists


  • Make your hyperlinks descriptive ("assignment instructions" instead of "click here")
  • Links must make sense out of context
  • Don't change the default hyperlink style


  • Keep table structure simple
  • Use column and row headers 
  • Don't split or merge cells
  • Don't leave cells blank
  • Designate a header row